Najib mocks Penang CM over cost of Pan Island Link 1 highway project

Former prime minister Najib Razak says that despite Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s assertion, Pan Island Link 1 will still be the costliest highway project ever.

PETALING JAYA: Najib Razak today accused Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow of continuing to lie over the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway project.

The former prime minister mocked Chow for insisting that the cost of the project is RM7.5 billion and not RM9 billion as stated by him.

“He (Chow) said the PIL project cost is still RM7.5 billion although it was announced several years ago. We all know that the prices of goods have risen since then,” he said in a blog post.

“He said the price is very reasonable and not expensive at all.

“So, it’s RM7.5 billion for a 19.5km-long highway, and not RM9 billion. And so the cost works out to be ‘only’ RM385 million per km and not RM461 million per km.”

In comparison, Najib said the cost of the proposed East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is RM79.9 million per km.

“The cost of the controversial Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) in Selangor, that DAP had questioned and criticised in 2014 as the most expensive in Malaysia, was RM161 million a km,” he said.

“At that time, DAP also said the cost of the North-South Expressway (PLUS) was only RM13.04 million per km, while the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) was only built at a cost of RM33.18 million per km.

“Apparently, DAP has no accredited accountant as RM161 million, or RM79.9 million, is too expensive but RM385 million is very reasonable.”

Najib also noted Chow’s contention that state land would not be sold but land would be reclaimed instead and auctioned off to interested parties to pay for the PIL 1 project.

Saying that reclaimed land is a government asset, he asked: “Is an auction not a sale?”

Earlier today, Chow defended PIL 1 — a mega highway project that cuts through the island’s hills and which environmentalists warn can destroy the sensitive ecosystem — saying the state’s “silent majority” wanted it to proceed.

He said based on feedback from the public through town hall sessions, some 80% of Penangites approved of the project.

Chow said opposition to the project came “from a loud minority”, adding that the state would continue to engage with them by having independent experts “explain and enlighten where misconceptions are brewing”.

He said the tunnelling and other complex works for PIL 1 justified the price tag of RM7.5 billion, and denied that the cost would escalate to RM9 billion.

The money for the project would be funded through the reclamation of three islands south of Penang, which will be ultimately owned by the state, Chow said.

As for the George Town-Butterworth undersea tunnel and the related three main roads project, Chow said the authorities had yet to pay the contractors for a feasibility study report of the tunnel as the report had yet to be finalised.

He said it was hence “incorrect” to claim that the state government had paid a total of RM305 million to the concessionaire company.

“The report for the proposed undersea tunnel is currently under review by an independent checking engineer appointed by the state government,” he added.